Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservatives have returned a $25,000 donation after an investigation into a campaign cheque the party received from billionaire Daryl Katz.
The now-complete investigation by Alberta’s independent Chief Electoral Officer has found part of that cheque violated election finance laws in the province.
It’s not clear, however, whether the investigation found any fault with the issue of cheque-splitting, in which large sums can be divided up and attributed to different entities. Elections Alberta would not say what the ruling on that subject was, pending the decision being delivered to the donors, but the PC party said it believed it has been cleared of wrongdoing.
The Globe and Mail has reported, citing sources, that Mr. Katz, a pharmacy mogul and owner of the Edmonton Oilers, wrote a $430,000 cheque to the PCs during last year’s election. The money was split up among several people and companies connected to Mr. Katz for receipt purposes, with each sum under the $30,000 donation limit.
Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim’s investigation found that one of those people – Paul Marcaccio, identified as the Katz Group’s chief financial officer – wasn’t “ordinarily resident” in Alberta when the donation was made and therefore wasn’t allowed to donate. His $25,000 donation has been returned by the PC party.
That was the only ruling published by Elections Alberta, suggesting the rest of the donation was within the rules.
In a letter to the Chief Electoral Officer – a copy of which the Premier’s office shared with reporters – the party appears to consider the issue closed. Since each donation within the $430,000 cheque was investigated separately, and only Mr. Marcaccio’s donation was found to be offside, “this further supports the conclusions that the remaining donations must be separate contributions and therefore compliant with donation limits,” wrote the party’s president, Jim McCormick.
Mr. Fjeldheim has retired but completed the investigation before leaving, a spokesman said. Josh Pekarsky, a spokesman for Mr. Katz, declined to comment “until we’ve seen the report.”
With a report from Dawn Walton in Calgary